Fighting Fear with Faith

Before the last couple of years, worry and anxiety were never challenges for me.  I have the kind of mind that just doesn’t hold on the those kinds of things.  Unlike my husband, who is consumed with worry pretty much all the time, making him miserable, I have always been able to put problems aside to deal with whatever is right in front of me.
But more recently, I’ve suffered from anxiety of the free-floating variety.
Read the reset at Everyday Ediths.

Love and Fear

Unless all your Facebook friends think exactly like you, your newsfeed is probably like mine right now–completely polarized on the issue of admitting Syrian refugees to the United States.

On one side are those who believe that terrorists will take advantage of the situation to sneak into the country to do us harm.  On the other are those who believe we have a moral responsibility to welcome the stranger.  Some of the first group are racists who think all Muslims are terrorists; most feel bad for the refugees but are sincerely concerned about the safety of themselves and their loved ones.  Some of the second group are motivated by Christian beliefs, others by their sense of what this country is supposed to stand for.

Both groups demonize the other.  Both groups are afraid–one of the consequences to our country if we admit the refugees, the other of the consequences if we don’t.

Both groups seem increasingly desperate in their attempts to convince each other that they are right, posting and reposting poorly-sourced and slanted news articles and judgmental memes.

I fell prey to this temptation myself the other day when I posted a meme involving the comparison of the refugees to the Holy Family seeking shelter in Bethlehem, and casting doubts on the true Christianity of those who would turn them away.

While 40 of my friends “liked” this post, many others, lacking a “dislike” option, shared their feelings in the comments.  In the end, I realized that posting something like this might make me feel good for a minute or two, but it doesn’t convince those who disagree with my position to change their minds.

Lesson learned, since then I’ve gone back to trying to be informative rather than judgmental and I’ve done a lot of reflecting on what this crisis is doing to our country and to our relationships with each other.

If the goal of terrorism is to create fear, then we are all letting the terrorists win.  If half of us are so afraid of terror attacks that we are ready to ignore our responsibility as Christians, human beings, and yes, American patriots to welcome the stranger, the terrorists are winning.  If the other half of us are letting this disagreement divide our nation, if we are demonizing our friends, neighbors, and relatives instead of trying to alleviate their fears, the terrorists are winning.

Lorelei has a great picture book called The Monster Who Grew Small.

A retelling of an Egyptian folktale, it is the story of a boy who is afraid of everything.  On a quest to find courage, he comes upon a village of people so paralyzed by fear of a nearby monster that they are unable to function.  As the boy approaches the terrible creature, he finds that it grows smaller and smaller until he is able to pick it up in his hand and take it with him back to the village:

The people crowded round to see the Monster. It woke up, yawned a small puff of smoke, and began to purr. A little girl said to Miobi, “What is its name?”
“I don’t know,” said Miobi, “I never asked it.”
It was the Monster himself who answered her question. He stopped purring, looked round to make sure everyone was listening, and then said:
“I have many names. Some call me Famine, and some Pestilence, but the most pitiable of humans give me their own names.” It yawned again, and then added, “But most people call me What-Might-Happen.”

Are we going to let the fear of What-Might-Happen destroy our country from within?  Even if you take issue with calling America a Christian nation, there’s no denying that the majority of Americans say that they are Christians.  Aren’t Christians supposed to believe that God is in control?

So I’ll leave you with these words from 1 John 4:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. . . There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. . . If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

What might happen if we embraced love–both of our fellow Americans who disagree with us and of refugees–instead of fear?

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.- Marianne Williamson.png

Is Fear Ruining Childhood?

Like many people approaching the mid-century (ACK!) mark, I look back fondly on childhood as an idyllic episode in my life.  And while it may be true, as Doug Larson says, that “nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days,” I still think those days were pretty good.
I remember running freely through the neighborhood at a very young age, under the supervision of slightly older kids; riding my bike IN THE STREET; selling any number of things door to door to (gulp) strangers; walking home from the bus stop; hanging out in the five and dime while my mother shopped in the grocery store; sitting alone in the car while she ran errands; basically living outside in the summer till after dark.
If you are my age, you probably remember doing the same things.  Now we all know many of our kids are having childhoods that are quite different.  Often we blame the internet or video games or social media, and all of those are valid differences and posts for another day.  What I blame is FEAR.
Having had a happy childhood, I didn’t see any reason to depart too much from the way I was raised when my own kids came along.  Sure, there have been some advances we can all approve of.  Today’s car seats are better than the one I had as a toddler, which came equipped with its own mini-steering wheel.  We now know it’s not good for kids to bask in a constant haze of cigarette smoke.
We received a car seat for a baby shower gift, and we aren’t smokers, so those issues were never a problem.  So I stayed home with my babies, slept with them nearby, diapered them in cloth with rubber pants and pins.  As soon as we had a yard, I let them play outside alone, climbing trees, getting dirty, and having adventures.  I left them in the car when I ran into the convenience store to buy milk.  I let them stay at home alone for short periods as soon as they felt comfortable enough to ask to do so.  In our urban neighborhood, they walked to the playground, to the library, to the drugstore.  I could give many other examples.
free range
Often I encountered others whose children were far more sheltered.  Most parents seemed to be telling their kids to fear everyone, while I was telling my kids that most people are good.  Others wouldn’t let their kids play outside in their own yards unsupervised; I was shooing mine out into the unfenced front yard.  Everyone else seemed to be terrified of the infinitesimal chance of abduction.  Other parents seemed to feel danger was lurking everywhere.
Yet studies show that crime rates are lower and the world is statistically safer than it was when all of us roamed freely.  Maybe it is the influence of the internet, which makes sure we are all aware of every possible horror that could befall our offspring (although, as I have pointed out, if these things happened more often they would no longer be news).  Or maybe, for whatever reason, it’s the product of an increased need to believe that we can be in control of our own lives (an illusion, and an emotionally crippling one).  Whatever is causing it, it’s bad for us and it’s bad for our kids.
I don’t care what other people think about me, so I did what I thought was best for my own kids.  But when they are parents, they might not have the luxury to parent the way they were parented.  Because while I am not afraid that a stranger will abduct my unaccompanied child, I AM afraid that a stranger will report me to the Department of Children’s Services for leaving her alone in the car.  I AM afraid of being arrested and charged with neglect for making parenting decisions that for one thing are perfectly reasonable and for another ought to be no one else’s business.
We all grew up knowing about over-protective parents but now we have to contend with an over-protective society. On every social media post I read expressing outrage about the “nanny state” I read several comments from parents who would never, ever let their kid do this, that, or the other thing alone because the “world is a dangerous place.”  Can we trust parents to make the best decisions for their own families?  Can we trust our kids with a little freedom to play, learn, and grow?